Friday, August 26, 2005

more terrible things to read:

"You have a group invitation awaiting confirmation. Peanut Butter Belly"

These are the sort of facebook group invitations that I receive. To tell you the truth, those are the sort of groups that I enjoy being in, if only to convey to the digital public that I am not some conceited self-absorbed douche bag.

But groups on facebook celebrating the self-absorbed masses of the American university system are plentiful. At Columbia alone, which is not particularly well known for its good looking men and women has countless versions of:

- Fabulous People
- I Look Good In Sweatpants and a Popped Collar - You Don't!
-Hot Boys - Columbia University's Ultimate Studs
-I'm the Shiznit and You're Not.
-The Oyster Collection (i Rock a Rolex and You Don't!)

Gosh. The entire thing makes me want to puke in my mouth a little bit. Let's face it, sweatpants and a popped collar? No that's not looking good, that's just wearing sweatpants and a popped collar and looking like a douche, that and... telling everybody you're a fucking idiot for spending $100 on Juicy Couture sweatpants. My next $100 something, is going towards Sennheiser HD555 headphones, those are way more bad ass than asshugging sweatpants and a Lacoste polo.

But the most disturbing part is that Columbia's class of 2009 has already jumped on the bandwagon. There are some people who already have 150+ "friends" by virtue of... oh I don't know, I'll take a stab at it, you like Coldplay and Modest Mouse and poked them. It is pretty vile and ...somewhat telling that there is a group named "the hottest freshmen girls of 2009" which was started by a certain individual who took a year off and used to take off his shirt and do pull ups on ceiling pipes in wein. Perhaps I just don't understand the complexity and deepness of the group, student of 2008, originally 2007, starts a group providing a daily affirmation for its member girls that they are in fact hot (some of those girls are poor choices, whoever the 'talent scout' is has awful taste in women).

One look at the profile of the owner of the group and you start to cringe. We will start at the wall:
entry: from a freshman
"Well your life story is amazing and its awesome that u feel close to me already. Cant wait to meet you next year so we can party in NYC!!"

Did the Columbia campus just do a collective shudder or was it just me? I almost find it hard to believe that we share 20+ friends in common as just glancing at the profile makes me cringe.

-Crashing the 745Li (what kind of idiot crashes a 7 series? Is this an acknowledgment of stupidity and recklesness, or just a tacit reminder to everyone that he is rich and can afford to crash $100k cars?)
-girls with protruding hip bones
-girls wearing only my oxford shirts and boy short underwear
-ann coulter (WTF)
-arguing with liberals
-girls in cowboy boots
-existential philosophy
-going to the gym at 5 am and having sex right after coming back from the gym
-ordering food after not eating for days (what?)

oh oh. this one is so touching i almost cried at how deep he is.
The feeling I get when I look out my window at the christmas tree lights on College Walk in the winter: Its magical, and there are only a few of you who understand what that feeling means to me.
give me a fucking break.

Clubs and Jobs: I get paid to wear Abercrombie & Fitch clothing. And now also Adidas.

About Me: You bitches wish you were me. That's right. I bet you don't even know how to sail.

This is the profile of a refined man. It kind of hurts the soul to see these kinds of people. really. oh god. I just puked a little in my mouth again.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

dorm decorations 2005-6

And so.... I want to blow these up to 11x14 and frame them with the glass plate & clip frame. 2006 dorm decorations.
dormdecor1 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

the terrible things you read.

"You have a friend request awaiting confirmation. To confirm, click here."

I click to see who it was, my neighbor and one of my best friends while I was growing up. We had gone to elementary school together for a few years until he moved to South Carolina. Our families were close, we sent Christmas cards back and forth... but then after a while distance took its toll and it was silence.

You can learn a lot about a person by what other people have to say about them. Sure everybody's facebook profile is going to be the same, everyone lists Coldplay and Jay-Z and everyone lists Office Space and the Big Lebowski. That kind of stuff isn't insightful, scroll to the 'wall', this is where things get a little more interesting. I believe the most telling thing about a person is their first impression to you when they are five feet away from your face. The way they walk, the way the carry themselves, the expression on their face, the ambition that may be hiding or glittering behind their eyes. Sometimes if you're lucky you might get a glimpse of that from the facebook wall.

Tonight I learned a little too much. Nothing sexually innapropriate, but quite the opposite; a sobering dose of reality. I'm suprised Sean remembered me, to tell you the truth, I thought that part of my life was far behind me, but people always remember. Sean joined facebook on May 9th, 2005. The first message was from a girl, she told him how amazing he is, how much she wanted him to hang out with her and how much potential she saw in him. It's nice to know that people care that much about you.

Eight revisions to the wall later, how much had he evolved as a person, did this girl still think the world of him? June 24th, 2005. Another friend left the message, "I wanted to tell you you did a great job reading her eulogy". God I've been there, I remember sitting under the dome outside of Hartley/Wallach in front of the steel gates. I was sitting on the concrete throwing ice packed snow at the wall. I've been there, poor kid, it's like I just talked to him yesterday and caught up, it doesn't even feel like I got the facebook fastforward version.


Monday, August 22, 2005


My doctor always told me to make sure I drank enough milk. She said that at some point people just stop liking the taste of milk, and that I should get past that and get calcium one way or another. Luckily I never stopped liking milk. In the past three months though, apparently I've become increasingly lactose intolerant. I had heard tales of things like this. Things like asians lack particular stomach/liver enzymes to break down alcohol so they turn really red, or asians didn't have cows in their area so they never developed lactose processing enzymes.

This evening I realized that I hadn't been to the grocery store in a month. I had subsisted off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pears, not paying attention that they were very close to dissapearing along with all the steak that I had. For dinner I had fettucine pasta and a can of chicken broth I had laying around. For a little flavor I ate half a block of pepper jack cheese. I've been farting since 10 pm. God have mercy on me.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

the new yorker

In the newest issue of the New Yorker there is a piece by Joel Stein about the army's new recruiting pamphlet.

Wait. I just found it on the internet for free... why the hell did I drive to Barnes & Noble to go read it then? Oh, to buy the new GQ. Anyways. The article is a little unfair to the army but it was really funny. (Did anyone know that Condé Nast puts out the New Yorker AND GQ? I had no idea).

After reading the article and drinking my grande iced coffee, I had a dire need to use the toilet. There was another man using the urinal (I had to ask Leslie what this was called... I referred to it as the 'upright man toilet' out of ignorance) so I proceeded to use one of the stalls. I looked down, aimed, and then looked up again. At some point in between my looking up and actually peeing, I thought of the New Yorker article again. God it was funny. I peed on my left foot. Thanks New Yorker, jerks, you too Joel Stein.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Scientology: Alien genocide and religious "artifacts"

for your reading pleasure, this blog has been rewritten AND spellchecked AND has gone through one draft! holy shit this is a Wang. blog first. consider yourselves lucky.

What if I told you that my pop-tart was a reincarnated embodiment of an ancient warrior; a pastry that hurtled from the heavens to earth, only to be set free by a toaster setting of two… or lightly toasted. Now imagine I convinced three of my best friends that it was true and said that the only way we could hope for the ancient warrior race to come to earth and save the pop-tarts was to slather ourselves in a sticky concoction of unsalted butter and ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’. I’ll call it the Church of Trans-fat-pastry-logy. Sound stupid? Well it should and I’m not likely to have any support, government or public. It’s too bad though, I could potentially save thousands every year by not having to pay taxes and having the IRS give me a deduction for educating my new members about proper buttering ritual. I think that’s just really unfair.

What is scientology anyways? Scientology tries to present itself as is one man's epic legacy of melding science with religion; a hope of making the world a better place and purging our minds of irrationality. However, what it tries to combat is exactly what it is at its core, an irrational body of thought.

“In Scientology no one is asked to accept anything as belief or on faith. That which is true for you is what you have observed to be true. An individual discovers for himself that Scientology works by personally applying its principles and observing or experiencing results.” [from]

There must be something that sets Scientology apart from every other religion on our planet, something other than just good will, life improvement, and moral foundations. From what I’ve seen in Times Square, they have a secret weapon, the “Electropsychometer”, they tout it in the subway as a free stress test. The E-Meter is a tabletop box that supposedly measures changes in your mental activity as an auditor pelts you with stressful questions. How does it do that without MRI technology*? That answer surely will be answered when you become part of the fold.

Aside from using the E-Meter and an auditor to help you purge the bad humors from your body, after donating about $10,000 you learn that a long time ago our galaxy became overpopulated and an evil warlord sent the overpopulated masses to earth in order to hydrogen bomb them-interstellar genocide. The souls of these beings entered humans and are the cause of all misfortune, disease, radiation, etc that human beings face on a day to day basis.

If there was an overpopulation problem, why send them to earth and bomb them? Why not send them to the sun, why not burn them alive? Overpopulation for the galaxy would account for A LOT of organisms; a hydrogen bomb blast killing them off would have to be pretty ginormous. Where are the signs of explosion? Oh I get it, it killed off the dinosaurs. Next time on Unsolved Mysteries. Dun dun dun.

I think it is perfectly rational to believe that aliens visited our planet; you might even go so far as to say they kick started the absolute miracle that turned amino acid soup into organisms. In my humble opinion, Scientology’s claims are hardly believable and are more in line with science fiction than any kind of organized religion. Organized religion usually is thoughtful enough to be based on something, a dusty book, scrolls in a time capsule, the bible, something… anything. Scientology is based on the lifework of a professor/sci-fi writer, a Mr. Hubbard. It is a big mystery to me how the supposed fastest growing religion, maintain its members if you are presented with alien genocide and invasion of the body snatchers; assertions that are based off of zero factual or nonfactual proof, just one man's 'theory'.

Public acceptance of Scientology feels disturbingly similar to the Doomsday Aum Cult that was responsible for the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway. How many normal Japanese professionals and college students were sucked into that, paying for stupid things that their "guru” assured would lead them to further enlightenment (such as a vial of his piss to drink). Their uptight workaholic culture prompted widespread buying into the cult, but it is amazing how many people gave in to the teachings and beliefs of someone who fabricated the entire thing for monetary gain. Hollywood, although not subject to the uptight day-to-day of the Japanese businessman, seems to be on the same track. Theirs is a culture of buying into the newest fad; how many people can be recruited by a fad? I shudder to think, but it’s already gotten an entire page in Teen People. Be warned, Teen People knows all.

I dedicate this journal to freeing Katie Holmes from the clutches of shorty mcshortsalot Tom Cruise.


From []
“E-Meter is a shortened term for electropsychometer. It is a religious artifact used as a spiritual guide in auditing.”

“What makes the E-Meter react is the impingement of these mental image pictures against the body. A person receiving auditing holds two plated cans which are hooked up to the electronic components of the meter. The meter sends a miniscule electrical current (approximately half a volt) through the body, about the same amount of current as in the average battery-powered wristwatch.”

These sorts of things kind of make me cringe. I thought about it after writing this journal and it became very obvious what was going on. It is impossible for there to be a religious artifact of Scientology since the religion was spawned out of Ron Hubbard’s head. Scientology, at least in their literature, proposes a way to live ones life, how to cope with stress, how to deal with drug abuse. At surface value it’s very pragmatic but in no way shape or form did it ever claim to be based off of anything previous to Hubbard’s formulation, it is obvious that there is no such thing as a religious artifact of Scientology.

What is this E-Meter? At first I thought maybe they put a band around your head. That’s not what they do at all apparently. According to the website, they hold conductors in their hands and the meter sends a current through the body. (Not to nitpick, a volt is not a measure of current) What they are actually doing to “measure brain activity” is put an electrical meter across the human body and ask questions that are stressful. The stress causes people to have sweaty hands, sweat which increases or decreases the amount of resistance that the meter sees across the body. This is no religious artifact; it is an analog ohmmeter that they painted red.

Monday, August 15, 2005

the extreme right....

The extreme right is so far to the right that they should be careful of falling off of the page altogether. If they continue to claim to be indicative of the majority of our nation then we need to do some serious self-examination.

All we have to do is look at today's Washington Post. If you're conservative, forget the notion that the Washington Post is some liberal hate machine spreading vile propaganda. What I pulled out of the article are just the words from the horse’s mouth. Let us read:

"Rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork warned that the high court has defined homosexuality as "a constitutional right . . . and once homosexuality is defined as a constitutional right, there is nothing the states can do about it, nothing the people can do about it.""

First of all, homosexuality IS a constitutional right. If you are gay, I'd advise you to call your senator or congressman, or Bork for that matter and get an apology. This is just unacceptable rhetoric, forget the liberal bias machine, this is just base pandering to further brainwashing people. We should turn to our First Amendment, as so many people like to do.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances".

Oh look there it is. Right under Amendment I, Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Homosexuality is not explicitly written into the constitution, it shouldn't have to be, nor will it ever be. I don't think anybody needs to turn this into serious discussion, it's not even a deep first amendment issue, it's pretty cut and dry. Moving on.

"House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said "activist courts" are imposing "state-sanctioned same-sex marriage" and "partial-birth abortion" and are "ridding the public square of any mention of our nation's religious heritage" in what amounts to "judicial supremacy, judicial autocracy."

At times I wonder at Tom DeLay. Who is he kidding, I mean really. Our nation's religious heritage was one of deism. The founding father's, the majority of which were either atheist or deist, strictly wrote into the first amendment that we have a freedom of religion but also one where congress does not respect an establishment of religion. This was because Christianity's own troubles of having more flavors of Jesus than Coca Cola. We have a heritage of tolerance if anything. If by ridding the public square of our religious heritage we mean not imposing Christianity on everybody in the United States and their kid sister, of putting up statues of Moses and the 10 commandments in front of government buildings (where the constitution actually says that the government wasn't going to favor one over the other). To say that we have a history of religion that we should respect is to hide the true motive of the religious right. One should be hesitant of simply calling them "religious", they are extremist Christians. If a history of religion is signified by no more than a tacit mentioning of 'God' than... they might want to go look for something new to throw out there. Respect for religious history is not being truthful; it means a broader stranglehold on the United States' religious demographic, which includes Muslims, Jews, Scientologists, etc. If there is one thing that is scary is that the Christian PAC's are so strong, while at the same time we advocate a culture of religious tolerance. May we be weary that Jesus be written into law and "Moses is god's prophet" be cause for federal crime. That is a little outrageous, but that is the direction we are heading in. Serious nominees for the Supreme Court, our nation's highest court, should even in the strictest most literal reading of the Constitution, should know that the advocacy by the extreme religious right would not be sound legal policy in anyone stroke of life.

In Supreme Court rulings, DeLay said, "rights are invented out of whole cloth. Long-standing traditions are found to be unconstitutional. Moral values that have defined the progress of human civilization for millennia are cast aside in favor of those espoused by a handful of unelected, lifetime-appointed judges."

I think perhaps Mr. DeLay may want to apologize for these sorts of comments too. To say that long-standing traditions are found to be unconstitutional is saying what? What sorts of traditions in America have been found to be unconstitutional? Slavery? oh oh oh I got one, segregation? Wait... no. These are the words of Rep. John Lewis who puts it better than I ever could:

"Where would we be as a nation if Congress in 1954, fifty years ago, had radically amended our constitution to uphold segregation or the separate but equal doctrine? I further ask: Where would we be as a nation if Congress in 1967 made it unconstitutional for interracial couples to marry?”

Well shit. I can't think of anything else that has been found to be unconstitutional if not slavery, separate but equal, segregation, or interracial marriage. I can't tell if DeLay is just pandering to the Christian base or if he is a white supremacist... or maybe he's just hinting that these "activist judges" would turn over some other tradition... He was probably talking about abortion (I know I know) ... then again anti-abortion wasn't exactly an American tradition.

Speakers compared the civil rights movement of the 1960s to demands now by Christian groups for restoration of traditional morality. "It's time we move to the front of the bus and that we take command of the wheel," said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League.

In light of the last two quotes, one by DeLay, one by Donohue, I think it is important to remember that our societal ethics was largely decided not by Christian religion, but by common sense secularism. If we were following by the book bible morality, we'd be stoning women to death, taking the rod to our children, and generally just killing everyone who didn't agree with us. I'd rather Bill Donohue not have Bill Donohue pretending that he is anyone similar to Rosa Parks. There is a weird belief that is becoming pervasive in American society that believes that Christians are somehow the minority in the country, that they are the intellectually, economically, everything-ally repressed. They forget that they compose 80% at last census of 288 million people. This could be why I and most other people can't help but wonder with that big incredulous look on our faces when we are told that they are "at the back of the bus".

Newsflash to Tom DeLay: You're about to be fired, and Patrick J. Fitzgerald is coming after everybody else.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

religion is god's population control

A few weeks ago, I wrote an email to conservative AM radio talk show host Michael Graham for his comments on Islam. He had said that we were at war with Islam, that Islam because of the actions of extremists should be labeled a terror organization. He likened this rationale to the Boyscouts of America, if two boyscouts were suicide bombers than the BSA would consequently be a terror organization. Obviously this logic is flawed, but over the past few weeks his premise, that we are at war with Islam, still bothers me and just may be true.

I've had my problems with the Church since my mom started taking me when I was in middle school. We went to Presbyterian church for a few years before it became tiresome to show up every Sunday and the message didn't hit very hard. Was I to believe that human beings are born sinners and that by supernatural forces Jesus died for my sins thus absolving human beings from their inherent troubled nature? Every sunday was a play from the Jesus Christ rule book, while there were often mentions of church members ongoing missionary and humanitarian efforts in Africa, the rest of the time was spent on how to get to Heaven, how not to goto hell, how we should let go and put our faith in god. How long has religion, spirituality, been about avoiding hell at all costs and not about a personal relationship with god? This has to be the most basic premise of religion, one that seems to have been avoided, or not examined very deeply, who/what is god. Without having a concrete understanding of what we believe to be God, it seems difficult to have faith in anything else that we are simply supposed to 'have faith' in. God; omnipotent, omniscient, bondless.

This is difficult to come to terms with. There is one undeniable, regardless of god, evolution, nature, etc. human beings have the unique ability to reason and express reason, our brains are built to cognize environmental stimuli and this information is processed to allow us to walk, to see, to build vast capitlist empires, to engineer bridges that span the seas, to travel to distant planets. Our greatest faith, is our faith in ourselves, in our ability to take advantage of our mental abilities and put them to use. I've been a student of science and philosophy for almost eight years now, my day to day job is to apply my knowledge of physical phenomena to useful application. My mind like everyone elses function by means of reason. Science has taught me verifiability, philosophy to analyze belief, history to look at our past,and anthropology to determine how we as a species got to where we are today. In the end I have every reason to dismiss the traditional faith based conception of god as the man in the sky, constantly imposing judgement on me and placing me on the scale of postmortem destination. I've had to ask myself for a long time, why do you still believe in god? you have every reason not to, yet you cling, faith defies reasonability and has effectively placed itself above questioning.

My definition of god is not the grand master smiling to you from the sky. God, I believe, is that which is outside of human beings ability to cognize in the brain. Many philosophers spoke of seeing objects. but not knowing if we were actually seeing what was actually there. Does the world actually exist as we interpret it, I think that is beyond our ability to cognize, we are only able to understand the world and function in it as far as we see it through our eyes, but pragmatically this is all that matters. In pursuit of truth, what we can't see seems to be the higher truth, the truth we are oblivious to, limited by our biological construction.

Why do I call this beyond human capability of reason and brain function God? That's a good question, why reason that this is my definition of god rather than just call it what I see it as, reality outside of our cognitive ability. It never had to be "god", but why maintain that I believe in god if I really don't in the traditional sense, perhaps it's a social conditioning to be weary of atheism.

As I was researching/writing my previous thoughts down on religious fundamentalism in the sphere of sexual contraceptives, the more I read the more I was surrounded by lack of fundamentalism by self described fundamentalists.
I think it was only natural that I stumbled onto a book last week, that I hope will answer a lot of questions of my own 'faith' or at least affirm what has been stewing in the back of my mind for the past few years. I read an article on the other week by author Sam Harris, a Stanford philosophy graduate now working on a neuroscience doctorate. I ran out to by his book, "The End of Faith: Religion, Terrorism, The end of Reason".

Three chapters into Harris' book and looking back on my life, I am convinced that it is a product of social conditioning that leads us to religion. I was brought up in the South, Jacksonville, Florida isn't the deep south, but it has its own part as a breeding ground for conservatism and souther baptists. Being Christian and believing in God was something that gets instilled in kids from the day they are born. My family was never deeply religious, my mother and her mother did not turn to God (although my Mom shares the same critical attitude and disillusion with organized religion that I do) until my grandfather died, a man from the Billy Graham organization visting alongside the rest of the family. Elementary school kids ask you what Church you goto, it's almost a given that you goto church. Highschool and middle school all the cool kids goto 'Young Life', a Christian youth group, a group that is well... more of a group to find hot girls,boyfriends, and go on ski trips than it is to worship god. If you were atheist you were most likely that weird kid that didn't talk much in the back of the room, a product of the hot topic phenomenom, or you were the dirty old school punk rock kid with the "A" for anarchy drawn in white-out on your backpack. Everything in the south devolves into a stereotype, either you believe in god, or... you're somewhere on the fringe of adolescent society.

Fundamentalism is bred from social conditioning and family tradition. Conviction to that degree requires literal interpretation to be drilled into your head. Literal interpretation that is only if we think about it, literal for purposes of hate and bigotry, other more unacceptable passages conveniently skipped over. The danger Harris says, is that we as a society, especially that of religious moderates have been led to believe that it is taboo to criticize the religious belief of others. This comes from our high minded Constitutional first amendment giving everyone, or rather, recognizing our freedom of free speech, excercise of religion, and freedom of expression. This constitutional right was written to protect religious persecution, the unwritten acknowledgement that religion dictated a foundation of morals and ethical structure that would guide our society. Belief that the Constitution is not a living document, one in which interpretation is (not) subject to the evolution of society like Biblical literalism is dangerous for the rights of American citizens and global status quo. The constitution is a document to preserve our rights, not systematically deny them, I would hope that people remember this.

If I told you that Oregon was a state on the east coast, disease was caused by bad humours in the body, or that the Earth moves on a plane of ether in the galaxy, your brain would automatically critically analyze my statements and assert that I was incorrect. My statements were not conjecture, they were simply not true. Alternatively discussion in the realm of religion does not reach this point of discourse, some part of our minds in having been conditioned suspends critical analysis of religious statements. We see this all the time on the floor of the Senate, Congress, and from the President. Religion is the final word in every argument. Harris sees this as a free pass, and I'm incline to believe him, as religion has largely supplanted itself in the American consciousness and has survived better than a roach during a nuclear storm. Religion is kept afloat by the belief that it provides a sense of community, a foundation of morality, spiritual experience that cannot be gotten from anywhere else; it has avoided widespread criticism by pushing religious violence and war to human conditions of greed and self interest. I think as students of a wide range of study we can see this is simply untrue in both cases. Ethics and morals are products of secularism and humanism and have functioned as such probably from the emergence of our race. Relegious wars? I think we can easily categorize the Crusades, Israel/Palestine, India/Pakistan, Sudan, Northern Ireland, Serbia/Bosnia, and the United States/War on Terror....aka Struggle against Religious Extremists, into the wars of religion category.

So are we at war with Islam? I think the larger issue is that we are at an ideological crossroads, we are struggling with religious fundamentalism on all fronts. On the American Christian front we are struggling with Christian fundamentalists trying to assert more influence to divert our country far more conservative than it already is. The Bible is literally interpreted to provide ethical basis for attacking abortion, gay marriage, contraceptive use, stem cell research, and a host of other issues. Though the Bible is not literally interpreted to provide a basis of acceptability for slavery, stoning adulterers, killing those who sway you from god or to false idols. Our absolution of these beliefs is a product of secular belief and as Harris says, scriptural ignorance, most people who are religious and consider themselves moderates(not fundamentalist) have taken the good parts of religious texts putting themselves in the strange position of not being true to their faith (which god says in many books to take his word as presented in the bible to be truth and to be followed to a T) or their reasonable mind. We don't stone children or women, we don't keep slaves, these sorts of things in modern day America are totally unacceptable and unethical. Thank secularism for seeing that killing off people that indiscriminantly is probably not the best way to have a functioning society. Effectively people have the same situation as myself, we have taken aspects of religion as a framework for our secular livelihood, yet in our secular application we remain devoted to the idea of god. It that vein we must wonder why we don't apply rational scrutiny to relgious beliefs, if fundamentalists have already made so many concessions to their own 'literal' interpretations of the bible, are they still fundamentalists? How is it that perfectly rationale people even become fundamentalist, from science and history we have the facts, the bible wasn't written by god(this is obvious, why would an omniscient, omnipotent being write a book in the first place?), it is written in far too many writing styles to be the product of one pie in the sky man. If anything, the Bible was written by man, and at the farthest stretch, their writing was divinely inspired by god; even still man is imperfect and subject to interpretation and thus cannot be directly the word of god. Religious tradition is also an area of contention as there are few religions if any on this planet that are completely of their own. Christian religion at its heart is an amalgation of religious and secular/pagan tradition that it has processed to its own benefit and growth. The 'truths' that you learn about the 10 commandments in church is after examination not as clear cut as the church would like you to believe, religious scholars to this day are at odds trying to reconcile the multiple appearances of the 10 commandments in the Bible, which are... quite different from one another. Even Jesus himself is disturbingly similar to the Shakyamunk Buddha, egyptian god Horus (the similarities which are... if only by coincidence is too close to immediately dispel), Mithra of Persia, krishna of india, but this is all neither here nor there.

What we as people in the modern world must be conscious of is that religious fundamentalism has trumped science. Many will tell you that the President's approach to say Stem Cell research is ethical and in everyone's best interest. I believe this is the correct approach as well, but not to the degree that he and others are sidestepping science. Many have advocated that they would be willing to accept abortion if presented with scientific facts. The truth is that the scientific facts exist, it is debate on "human-ness" that needs to be debated, but the conversation has been stifled by religious fundamentalists and the half and half religiousity of religious moderates. To be very blunt, there will be no adequate conversation about the ethical-ness of abortion until we abandon the notion of a soul, for when we bring the idea of a soul into the conversation that is the end of the conversation. It is true that science does not have all the answers, everything that we as scientists can hope to do is put up theory and conjecture, because like insulation within the realm of the reasonability of our cognitive brain functions, we can only prove factuality to such a degree, to be cliche, there is no absolute truth. This is where science is flexible though, science is pragmatic and is always able to adjust, if we one day find more reason to believe that electricity isn't the product of the moving potentials of electrons than with adequate evidence we can embrace a new understanding of the world. The foundation of science is progressiveness, when we embrace religious fundamentalism, this is at its root and impediment to progressive thinking. For religions in all of its spouting of truth, has no answers. Religion is at best a method (a foundationless method) of critique that proposes no answers aside from faith in the almighty.

What the suspension of reason in religious conversation has done is a paved way for violence. In the United States the limits of religious fundamentalism and extremism is set by our legal system. A legal system, which I would argue has more of a foundation in the Sumarian code of Hammurabi than it does the 10 commandments. It has been made clear by the law that freedom of expression does not include excercising a literal interpretation of religious texts that gives you freedom to endanger the lives and welfare of others. We may see the occasional abortion clinc bomber and scores of church goers bringing their five year old children in front of football stadiums on sundays with signs saying "AIDS is the only cure for homosexuality", but that is about the worst we see. This is because to some degree our secular humanism has created an ethic that regulates through law, religious extremism. Religious moderates myself included have been accepting of other religions, and why not? Unless your local jewish rabbi or student of the Koran is threatening to blow up your house, there is nothing that compels you to impose your faith. But it is also the truth that we accepting individuals, who ascribe to our Bibles, Torahs, Korans, look at non-believers and those of other faiths and smile, cringing at the fact that our religion damns them to hell. This is a strange nuance of society, we must interact for our livelihoods, yet spiritually there is such a divide that it is amazing that anything gets done. Islam like Christianity has much in it that applauds martyrdom. Unlike in American however, Islamic extremists and their followers find it acceptable to take their own lives in a suicide bombing. This is dangerous as we are fighting a war in Iraq, trying to systematically eliminate our opposition with secular weapons. Islam is so uncriticized in terms of possible interpretation that I fear for the future of our global society, where the only future I envision is more religious moderate Muslims making the conversion to fundamentalism and joining the extremist cause. When fighting the extremist wing of the second largest religion on the planet, one has to be weary of an unending source of struggle.

Global progress depends on our re-embracing of reason. Without it, our progress in the sciences, in diplomacy, etc. are stymied. I find it unoptimistic that only 20% of Americans believe in evolution as the source of our existence. Truth be told, evolution may not be the end all origin of species, but at least it has a foundation of proof. I find it difficult to believe that my origin is directly from God, the timeless being stopping into discrete time to make me in god's image. Me, a descendent of Adam and Eve, who were forced to cover their bodies, not for protection from the weather and environment but because they ate an apple for a snake. This is coming from a society that believes God's birthing from clam shells and throwing lightning bolts is silly. I have yet to completely let go of my belief in god, but if God does exist he has quite the sense of humor. The only way that I can rationalize god is that he gave us powerful minds that would change our physical environments, change them to the point where natural evolution has been trumped by our ingenuity to change our environments and not ourselves. If got does exist he unleashed opposing beliefs and religions upon the human race for the purpose of population control. He knew that we would eventually triumph over disease, take sex as a pleasurable recreational activity, the only way to effectively have a reliable means of population control is to let us kill each other by means of the unreasonable.

Monday, August 01, 2005

religion, always finishes second but gets the gold medal

For the last few days I've been trying to reconcile fundamentalist Christian views with scientific progress. More specifically the question of what is natural and what is not, in terms of sex.

If we look back through the years, it has always taken the Church and its more ardant supporters a long time to embrace scientific discovery. Although science is not mentioned often in the Bible, somehow the the church was able to establish its own acceptable explanations for unknown phenomena; everything revolved around the Earth, the world is flat, sickness is bad humours in the body or the devil manifesting himself through you, and the list goes on and on.

This policy seems rather familiar if you pay attention to the daily news and politics. Come up with a definitive answer now, prove or disprove later, but try your hardest to defend your original claim. The lag between claiming and proving are those people hoping to apply their moral relativism in a way that is no hypocritical to their faith, to not blur doctrinal lines, to maintain that one book has all of the answers.

The hardest thing for me to understand is fundamentalist views on sex. The policy advocated by the President as well as the Church is abstinence before marriage. The extreme being, that such things as birth-control, condoms, etc. are not to be used and are unnatural and not the way god intended for man and woman... or man and man, woman and woman for that matter, to have sex. I am not sure where this extrapolation comes from as I don't believe there is a chapter in the Bible called Sex Education 1:1.

The Bible never mentions birth control and sexual protection because... well it didn't exist at the time. What is natural? The human body was designed to repopulate the earth, post-... 'other species like dinosaurs' time. Over-population wasn't a concern as much as repopulating was, how many examples are there in the Bible of kings having at least a dozen children? The conditions and culture they lived in was best accomodated by reproducing as frequently as possible, to maintain the status quo of the rich and to preserve the family legacy.

The Bible is not the US Constitution, it is not persay a living document as much as it is a representation of the moral and ethical values of the time and people it was written for. As a religion however, it must be able to adapt, a strict reading gives too many oppportunities for clashing with modern day values.

As humans built upon the technology of each previous generation, we arrived at where we are now. We have arrived at a junction point where many have began to create a societal backlash against the progressiveness of the new era. God they say, did not intend for us to hinder the miracle of life with rubbers and latex, pills that regulate hormone cycles. How can we operate on the premise that human technology and progress is not normal, when our daily lives and pragmatic morals are deviations from the "normal" that is presented in the Bible. One cannot expect to be living 2000 years in the past, that is what is unnatural.

Jesus did not deal with overpopulation. People died in natural manners, disease, poor hygiene, infection, etc. all things that modern man has learned to combat (save overpopulation). Through science that lifespan of man has increased by at least 30-40 years. Disease is treatable, soap is plentiful, and overpopulation can be controlled by sexual protection. Sex and orgasm is pleasureful because it was meant to be done as much as possible, spreading the seed is the goal, from single cell organisms to the spores on a dandeliion and to man, we reproduce, that's our thing. But there is always a trade off. Disease is natural, in exchange for having the science to ward off disease, nature's natural overpopulation control has been trumped in a sense. The only thing that nature may rely on is death from aging as humans struggle to live longer and die less frequently. Without disease weeding out the weak like the occasional wild brush fire clearing out the forest, we continue to push on at a rabid pace. To control overpopulation we as a species must rely on what got us in this situation in the first place, science, ingenuity, and a bit of judicious behaviour.

For 'moral' pharmacists, who will not only not dispense the morning after pill, but not dispense simple birth control pills, they are doing the world a disservice. If we are to live the "natural" god intended life than we should do away with processed foods, we should do away with vaccines, we should do away with organ transplants and muscular reconstructions. To claim unnatural you must be willing to accept the entirety of the picture, the scope of your statement, I don't know of many that are willing to take that leap. If say god invented plaque, who are you to brush it away, to remove the natural decay that was intended for you? You can't pick and choose how fundamentalist you want to be, if you want to live in the world you must adapt to that world.

With this sort of attitude, you may be thinking that you could justify just about anything like this. A lot of people would be at odds with how do you apply science like abortion, are we able to just kill fetuses at whim for the sake of population control? Morality has always been a product of society, not of the Bible. In the end, it is science that drives morality forward as new invention always strains the question of is this acceptable, are we ok with this.

The fallacy... no no... difficulty lies in the belief in a soul. Through science you can draw a line, however grey between what is and what isn't a person. At one stage the developing bundle of cells is nothing more than a bundle of disorganized cells, comparable to a finger nail that you nervously chew off as you go about your day. During the first trimester and before the second, organ systems begin to form, there is a semblance of a brain, by the second trimester a discernable brain can be seen and perhaps neural activity. In my opinion you could call this too much of a person to abort. However, before? There is room to abort a blob of cells. But, if you introduce the wild card of a soul, you are forever without an answer.

The other day, there was a comment on where a man wrote in saying that many pro-lifers would be willing to cross the line to pro-choice if science was able to withold some facts and answers about person-hood. The fact is science yields many answers that you could base your viewpoint on, the difficulty is the soul. If the soul is within the 'baby' at consumation, then you're stuck. To my best knowledge, soul=person. Until people are willing to put faith into sciences hands, while maintaining natural society created morality than science will be forever at odds with religion. Religion forever playing a game of catch up, trying to dig out morality and immorality at every turn. Fundamentalism is a hinderance on any sort of progress.